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Canadian Border Closure Extended Into Summer; U.S. Intel Report: Several Wuhan Lab Staffers Hospitalized In November 2019; Fury At Belarus After Plane "Hijacking" To Arrest Journalist. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 24, 2021 - 21:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

The virus is in retreat. Cases are down across the country, 57 percent this past week from a month ago. Six states report an average of less than one COVID death per day, over the past week.

Why? Big reason is that half of the 50 states have now fully vaccinated at least half of all adults against COVID, but only half the states. Turns out the only thing holding us back is us. More specifically, some of us. More specifically, some of us, in certain areas, with very specific politics.

The proof, of the 25 states with the best vaccination rates, 17 of the governors have a "D" in front of their name. Where Trump got the most votes, you see the most hesitancy. We're going to go to this in detail with the Wizard of Odds later.

But the question is, if you look for those in Congress, who are fighting this progress, messing with vaccines, vaccine passports, messaging, you will find Party of Trump members.

Raises a question, is the willingness to frustrate the fight of a pandemic illness, a major symptom of poison politics that is literally making us sick in more ways than one?

Few people understand the state of play better than our first guest tonight, former Republican governor, actively now working to help vaccinate America, New Jersey's Chris Christie.

Good to see you, Gov.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Good to see you, Chris. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right. So, you tweeted today, made a lot of waves about it, "President Biden must push back, insist that if Canada believes in science and wants our vaccines, then they need to accept the broader premise that vaccinated people crossing borders either way goes hand in hand with the notion of expanded vaccination success. Stand up for America!"

And then you echoed that later on, saying, "More weakness from Biden" on this, "This is just wrong." It's "A double standard."

The message is pretty clear. This is Chris Christie saying what, about what Biden is doing and not doing?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, I'm all for helping Canada. And listen. Border States like Maine, and New Hampshire, and Vermont, have been permitting Canadians to come across the border, if they want, to be vaccinated, in the United States, really since February. And we're allowing folks to do that. And we're sending vaccine now to Canada.

But if we believe that the vaccines work, then you have to allow people, who have been double-vaccinated to come into Canada. They don't present a risk. And so, how could Canada ask us for our help, but at the same time not allow our citizens to go in?

There's so much business to be done in Canada. There are family members, for those folks in Canada. There are people who want to go to Canada again. And if they're vaccinated, Chris, we're sending the wrong message, and the President's sending the wrong message.

This is my argument when he wasn't getting the masks off earlier, for vaccinated people, including himself. It sends a powerful message to people that maybe they don't work. And that's contributing, I think, to some of the reluctance and some of the concern in some people's quarters about getting vaccinated.

So, I think we've got to send very consistent messages on this. These vaccines are 90 percent to 95 percent effective. If they are, then we need to open the border between the United States and Canada for vaccinated people.

And those people present their vaccination card? They should be able to go to Canada.


CHRISTIE: And I think Canada shouldn't be asking us for our help.

CUOMO: See, no, listen. I understand the rest of it. But the problem is how are they going to know who's vaccinated? You just said they show the card. That's not the answer. The answer is a vaccine passport, or any kind of systemic way that we can show it.


CUOMO: Now you have said before that you don't like vaccine passport. You say all the rest of that just sounds to me, like another idea of "Big government run amok."


CUOMO: Governors in eight states, all Republicans have banned vaccine passports. How can Canada let people in, if they can't tell if they've been

vaccinated, but people in your party, including you, don't want to be able to show that people are vaccinated?

CHRISTIE: No, Chris, we do. That card is in the possession of the individual who's been vaccinated. And they can display that card.

CUOMO: What if they lose the card?

CHRISTIE: And they display that card to get into ballgames.

CUOMO: What if they lose the card?

CHRISTIE: Chris, if you lose your card - if you lose your card, go back and get another one. Your health care provider, who gave you the vaccines, can give you another card.

CUOMO: But why don't you want an--

CHRISTIE: There's no reason for government to have--

CUOMO: Well why not have a uniform--

CHRISTIE: --all that information.

CUOMO: What all that information? That you are vaccinated? You don't think they have more information on you than that?


CHRISTIE: Well, that's a - that's a problem too, Chris.

CUOMO: One--

CHRISTIE: But if these cards have been presented, and they were presented to me, when I was vaccinated.

CUOMO: Yes, I have mine too.

CHRISTIE: And you know what I do, Chris? I keep it in the cup - I keep mine in the cup-holder of my car, so any place I go, if I need it, if I need to present it to someone, I can present it to them.

But that present - the possession of that information is mine, not the government's and not some government agency. And so, if Canada gets a CDC--

CUOMO: Yes, but they're really easy to fake, by the way.

CHRISTIE: --card presented to them--

CUOMO: They're really easy to--

CHRISTIE: --they should be able to say.

CUOMO: They're really easy to fake. CHRISTIE: Oh so--

CUOMO: And I think it's--

CHRISTIE: So is everything else, Chris.

CUOMO: But I think it's - well, no, they're getting better with the technology. It's not like when we were back in school.

But what I'm saying is I think this is part of the political problem here that - not you, I have your PSA loaded. You are telling people to get vaccinated. You had a change, after you got sick that you were on the wrong side of what the right messaging is. I'm not coming at you.

But your party is terrible on this. They believe that it's worth telling people that the vaccine is an invasion of their liberty, and that the passport is an extension of the man, and you can't let them track you. What is this about?

CHRISTIE: Now, listen, first of all, I'll disagree with half of your statement.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

CHRISTIE: There is no way a majority of the Republican Party, who's saying that the vaccine itself is a problem. It's not.

Now, you'll have folks like Rand Paul, who say they don't want to get vaccinated. That's his personal choice. And I think it's a difficult example to set for people. And I wouldn't do it. But that's Rand's decision. He made his decision.

CUOMO: Only 44.8 percent.

CHRISTIE: It's his personal health. He can decide it.

CUOMO: Only 44.8 percent of Republicans will tell CNN they received the vaccine.

By the way, there's a crosstab hidden in that, is that you have House Republican members, only 44.8 percent of House Republican members will tell us whether or not they've received the vaccine.

I mean, come on this is - this is conspiracy stuff going on with them.

CHRISTIE: Well - well--

CUOMO: What is that "I don't want to tell you"--


CUOMO: --"if I got the vaccine?"

CHRISTIE: I can't - I can't comment on why people won't tell CNN, that they have their vaccine. I'm more than happy to--

CUOMO: Because they're playing politics.

CHRISTIE: --tell you I'm here tonight. I've gotten the Moderna vaccine.

CUOMO: They want to be able to say it.

CHRISTIE: And I've gotten two doses of it.

CUOMO: But that's you, Gov.


CUOMO: And they've come after you also for--

CHRISTIE: --but here's the problem, Chris.

CUOMO: --being a turncoat to the party.

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, there has to be an absolute strong signal sent by the administration in the White House, that these vaccines work, and that anyone who takes actions that are contrary to that absolute fact that the vaccines work, that we need to push back hard against them.

That's why I'm upset about this Canada situation, Chris, because they want our help, right? They want us to take Canadian citizens into our country, to give them the vaccine. They want us to send vaccines to them, while, you just said, a good part of our country still isn't vaccinated. We're doing that because we're good neighbors, and good friends to Canada.

How about Prime Minister Trudeau, being a good neighbor and a good friend to us, and opening up his border to people who are vaccinated? It's wrong for him not to do it. And it sends the wrong signal for President Biden to sit by and allow that to happen is wrong, too. He should be speaking out against it.

CUOMO: But look, again, I think Biden should be pushing, I don't know, maybe the passport is the wrong word. I don't know, maybe that bothers people. But they're the most ones who are best set up, at the federal level, to get this done.

They have the data. I don't see this as any kind of Big Brother thing. It'll just make life easier.

Two-thirds of the international tourists in Canada, in 2019, were from the U.S. So, I don't know how this is in their interest.

But my point is, I think we're slowing ourselves down, because there's one Chris Christie in your party. And you have literally dozen--

CHRISTIE: No, that's not true. And it's--

CUOMO: But hold on a second. Hold, Gov., let me make the point.

CHRISTIE: It's just-- CUOMO: And then you can knock it down.

CHRISTIE: Yes, all right, go ahead.

CUOMO: We see it with the January 3rd - January 6th Commission. They don't want to have the Commission. They don't want to say it was an insurrection. They don't want to say that it was bad.

This is about running away for the truth - from the truth to keep people afraid, specifically White people. And that is what that party has become about. That's why I'm saying there's only one of you. I don't hear you singing that stuff.

CHRISTIE: Listen, that's just that--

CUOMO: But when they--


CUOMO: --when you hear that they won't do the Commission, and that "What happened on January 6th is overblown, and it wasn't an insurrection," when it was called an act of terror, don't you think there should be a Commission?

CHRISTIE: So what I - listen, I'm on here tonight - and I'll deal with that at another point.

But on the vaccines, Chris, the most important thing here is to get this country out of the pandemic. The way to do that is to make sure as many of our citizens get vaccinated as possible.

And the way to do that is to show people that it's safe and that there is a pay-off for getting vaccinated. That's why New Jersey still has not taken away the mask mandate. Despite the CDC announcement, we're not taking it off until this coming Friday.

People not being able to go to Canada, the White House not having taken off their masks for quite some time, all these things are sending contrary messages to the American people.


And look, President Biden's the guy in charge now. He's the one in the White House. The Democrats control the House. They control the Senate. They need to be sending consistent signals on this. Regardless of party, I'm sending a consistent signal on it.

Everyone gets to decide for themselves Chris if they want to be vaccinated or not. It's a personal health choice.

But what I found in dealing with focus groups on this is if you give people the facts, which are vaccines are like putting your seatbelt on, Chris, when you get in the car, it won't guarantee you 100 percent that if you get in an accident, you won't get seriously hurt or killed. But it makes it much, much less likely. And it's safe. And that's what we need to be emphasizing. And Canada shouldn't be doing the contrary, while at the same time,

Chris, asking us for help with vaccines. That kind of contradictory, hypocritical stuff is stuff the President shouldn't stand up for. He needs to stand up for America, open up that border. Let's get going.

CUOMO: Listen, I agree with the arguments. You couldn't be more right, when it comes to let the facts fall where they fall. If the vaccine is as good as we believe it is then the masks are being hyper- prophylaxis. I totally agree with that.

And, your buddies, over at The Post, put a picture of me wearing a mask in a car. It was from a month ago. And I had just gotten back in from being at a place that required a mask.

So, there are politics being played with this also, which is, "Hey, they're not moving that mask thing"--


CUOMO: --"because they're lying to you about it."

See - and I see a through thread of "The pandemic is a hoax," that "The masks are a joke" that the "Vaccine may or may not work," that "We don't know where the virus came from, because they're hiding it from you" that "January 6th never happened," it's a through thread, Governor.

And I understand that you want to let the facts fall, and you want to make policy arguments, as you see. But your party is following a through thread of questioning the truth for no good reason.

CHRISTIE: Chris? Look, Chris, that's just not universally true. Let's start off with President Trump, who has gotten vaccinated, and who has said publicly a number of times that people should get vaccinated.

CUOMO: Pretty - pretty smart - pretty--

CHRISTIE: So, we start right there.

CUOMO: --pretty quiet about it, Gov.

CHRISTIE: He has said that publicly.

CUOMO: Pretty quiet for him, pretty quiet.

CHRISTIE: No, listen, he's put out - listen, he doesn't have social media anymore, Chris. So he's put out statements. I've read the statements. And so have you.

And Republicans, all throughout the House and Senate, have shown, whether it was Leader McCarthy, or Senator McConnell, or other leaders, within our party, in Congress, have gone on and shown themselves being vaccinated.

We've had vaccinations when led by a lot of Republican governors, as was as it has with Democratic governors, across this country. What we need is to make sure from the White House now we get a consistent message, which is--

CUOMO: But the hesitancy--

CHRISTIE: --anybody who is doing something that's--

CUOMO: Why the White House?

CHRISTIE: --contrary to the facts--

CUOMO: Wait--

CHRISTIE: --just shouldn't - shouldn't.

CUOMO: But - but--

CHRISTIE: Well because they're in charge. Look?


CHRISTIE: In Canada - Canada - Canada's - our relationship with Canada is now being governed by President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the folks at the State Department in the Biden administration.

And my point is they're allowing them to send a contradictory message. "Give us the vaccines. But when you're vaccinated, you can't come to Canada. We don't want you." That's just wrong, Chris.

CUOMO: I get it. And we have to find out more about their reluctance.

CHRISTIE: It's wrong. They're not doing it in the E.U.

CUOMO: I want to find out--


CUOMO: --more about Canada's reluctance on this. I'll get more information about it. I hear you on the issue.


CUOMO: What I'm saying is that--

CHRISTIE: --I'd be happy to - I'd be happy to talk to - I'd be happy to talk to Prime Minister Trudeau about it on your show, Chris.

CUOMO: Listen, the invitation will be made.

What I'm asking is this. The hesitancy, as you know, is proportionally more on the Right side of the political aisle. And I believe, again, that it's not just "Well, Republicans are more skeptical of science." I don't think that's true. I think it's been politically weaponized more.

And when you look at where places in the country went for Trump, they are less likely to want the vaccine. I think that is about this poison, political talk that is given to them by members of your party. Again, only 44 percent of Republicans, who are in Congress will tell

us whether or not they got the vaccine. Why hide it? Because you're playing to a base--

CHRISTIE: It's - well it doesn't--

CUOMO: --that you want to talk two ways to. That's why.

CHRISTIE: Now, Chris, look, six weeks to eight weeks ago, I sat with a focus group, over virtually, with about 26 Republicans, from all across the country, different ages, different ethnicities, different races, from all over the country. All 26 of them came on the call saying they were not going to get vaccinated.

And myself and Dr. Tom Frieden got on this focus group, along with some others. And we made our arguments then about why vaccination was so important.

And half of those people, with just an hour and a half of this conversation, that we had, an open conversation, changed their minds, and said, then they were going to go and get vaccinated.

What it shows me is it's not about politics. It's about information. And we need to not be - one of the members of that focus group said something, I think, really important, in terms of the way we message this, Chris. He said, "Governor, I want to be educated, not indoctrinated."

And so, people don't, in this country, many people, don't want to be told what to do. They want to be educated and come to that decision on their own. So, I think we need to be smart about that.


We need to be talking about the facts that four times the number of people went through clinical trials for these vaccines, than go through a normal prescription drug clinical trial. Most people don't know that, that 95 percent of doctors who have been offered the vaccine have taken the vaccine, those who are best-educated on what we should do with our, with our health.

So, when you start to give people those facts, Chris, you turn them around. That's what makes me think it's not as much politics as it is some people's reluctance to be indoctrinated from the government or anyone else with something. They want to be educated and make their own decision.

CUOMO: That's fine, as long as you don't use indoctrination as an explanation to lie to people about the facts, and give them misgivings. I'm not saying you do that. But I see that being played on the Right side of the aisle.

Now, let me ask you something else. Here's what I see. I see that you are getting out and in front of something that this country needs, and it needs a leadership on.

I see you doing the PSA, when they're not that popular within your party.

I see you pushing back on how much toxicity you want to see out of your party.

And I see you being very smart about what you take head-on and what you don't, like the January 6th Commission. I don't understand why you're not a hard-yes on it.

Sounds to me like a great way to get ready for a Republican primary for President of the United States. Is Chris Christie going to put his hat in the ring?

CHRISTIE: Chris, the great news is I don't have to make that decision now, so I'm not going to.

CUOMO: So, it's not a no?

CHRISTIE: And what I have learned over the course of my political career--

CUOMO: Remember our beloved friend, who passed away?


CUOMO: Tim Russert? It's not a no?

CHRISTIE: No. And I've clearly said it's not no. In fact, I say it another way. I certainly would not preclude myself from doing so. But what I also know is that two years is a lifetime in politics, a lifetime. So anytime you make a decision that prematurely, chances are you may not make the right one.

So, I'm going to continue to do what I do every day, work hard for my family, work hard for my community, speak out on issues like this that I really feel very strongly about. And then we'll make a decision after the midterms in 2022, about whether or not we want to re-enter politics.

But certainly wouldn't preclude it, Chris. And no one else will make that decision for me, except for me and my wife.

CUOMO: Sure, put her first. I know that relationship. You should have put Mary Pat first, in terms of who's going to decide whether or not you are--

CHRISTIE: She's watching. She's watching.

CUOMO: Yes, I know.

CHRISTIE: Go easy, Chris.

CUOMO: Listen.

CHRISTIE: Go easy, buddy, come on.

CUOMO: I ask you the questions, and it is your opportunity to answer or not. You're always welcome on this show to do so. God bless, and good luck, going forward, to you and the family, Governor.

CHRISTIE: Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it very much. And everyone, go out and get these vaccines. It's very important.

CUOMO: All right, Governor Chris Christie, thank you very much.

All right, now that leads us into another wave of what's going on with this.

Look, I say it, I'll stand by it. I don't know of a lot of Chris Christies in that party right now. It's not an endorsement, obviously. But "Go get vaccinated," how often do you hear that? He said Trump said it. I haven't really heard it. I know he put out statements. So, that's where he is on it.

That's not where the party is. And here's how we know. They are obsessed with where it began. And they are doing it almost entirely through the lens of how Democrats want to lie to you about it, and how the truth is being kept hidden.

So, what do we actually know? There is newly revealed U.S. Intel, that adding - that is adding some fuel to the debate. But we have to start at what do we know and what do we not know, because now it's just a mass of ugly suggestions?

I got the perfect guest to take us through how to look at this. Next.









CUOMO: The worst of the pandemic is in all likelihood behind us. That's what those in charge, and looking at the science, and looking at the data say. Good. So, how about a return to the beginning?

Where did the virus come from? "Well, China." OK, but how? Animals like bats that, spread it, to humans, by mistake, intentionally? Or was the virus weaponized, and unleashed from a lab? All those are legitimate questions. But it's how people are exploiting the unknown to forward BS that we have to expose.

This theory that it was from the lab is gaining traction, especially here, especially in political circles, on the Right. U.S. Intelligence determined several researchers at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill in November 2019, and had to be hospitalized. Why? Now that adds fuel to the arguments that "It was COVID-19. That's why." Do we know that? No.

But it is something that Trump & Co. have been pushing for more than a year. Listen.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Have you seen anything that gives you high confidence that it originated in that Wuhan lab?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Martha, there's enormous evidence that that's where this began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that.

We have a lot of information. And it's not good. But you know, the worst of all, whether it came from the lab or came from the bats, OK, it all came from China, and they should have stopped it.


CUOMO: Now look, the reason that they're pushing it is because they want to forget who failed to stop it here, OK? That's the interest.

Because remember, Trump was all about the love, when it came to China, and how they were dealing with COVID, until COVID started to hurt him at home, and until the big lie which really started with the fact that the pandemic was a hoax - hold on - that that's what this was about.


That's why there's this curiosity because the more wrong China is the less wrong Trump was. That's the theory.

Now one of the people, who've seen the U.S. Intel report, on the sickened lab workers, OK, tells CNN there's still nothing definitive. The Wuhan lab director calls the report a complete lie. Do you believe them? It's up to you.

Even Dr. Fauci is open on maybe COVID-19 maybe not being simply transmitted from animals to humans. Take a listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: No, I am not convinced about that. I think that we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out, to the best of our ability, exactly what happened. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, you know what I just did? I added to the problem. Why? I said "He's come around to." When did you hear him say that he knew for a fact that it didn't? You see what I'm saying? Even by mistake there, I just played into a problem.

Fauci doesn't know where it came from. He thinks you should know and keep looking. Good. I have no problem with that. Do you? But it's the assumptions.

So, we spoke to a disease specialist on this program, a year ago, OK? He said that he had worked with the very same lab in Wuhan, and he was there at the same time that this would have had to be developed. And here's what he said.


CUOMO: What about the President and his friends' concerns that China did this to us on purpose? Do you believe that there is proof of the same?

PETER DASZAK, PRESIDENT, ECOHEALTH ALLIANCE: There is absolutely no evidence for that at all.

There is no evidence that this was a virus that was created in a lab. There is no evidence at all that it ever was in a lab. In fact, we've worked with the lab in Wuhan for 15 years now. We know everything they do. And we know that they do not have that virus in the lab, prior to the SARS outbreak.

I've never seen any evidence of anyone saying things that aren't true or even hinting of anything untoward from that lab. It just did not happen.


CUOMO: It was strong, when that was said, at the time, Peter Daszak, President of the EcoHealth Alliance.

But now we have to ask whether he had skin in the game, motivating that answer? How so? His Organization funded Coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And he was also part of the WHO team sent to China to investigate the origins.

So, let's now go to one of the first people to connect the dots on the lab-leak theory. That is Jamie Metzl, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, and former NSC staffer under President Clinton.

Jamie, thank you. Let us start with the most flagrant of the notions and work our way towards where you think we are best suited in this moment.

"They did it. They weaponized it. And they did it to hurt us. And then they sent it to us." Do you believe that? JAMIE METZL, MEMBER, WHO ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON HUMAN GENOME EDITING, FORMER NSC STAFF MEMBER UNDER CLINTON, AUTHOR, "HACKING DARWIN": Yes. I think that's extremely unlikely.

As you've mentioned, I have been - I was one of the first people to raise very, very significant questions about the origins of the pandemic, and the likelihood even as I see it, that this stems from a lab accident.

But the idea that they weaponized it, and purposefully released it, just doesn't make sense. I've seen no even circumstantial evidence suggesting that. And it wouldn't really make sense because they understand that viruses are uncontrollable.

So, even if you think as I do, that the most likely origin is an accidental lab leak, that doesn't mean that you automatically have to support that this was genetically-engineered, or a bioweapon, or anything like that.

CUOMO: Politics infecting the science. That works two ways in this situation. Would the Chinese create something that they thought could hurt us, but then it becomes an accident? That sounds like a political explanation for how something gets out. Why would you believe it's an accident?

METZL: So, I don't think you have to start your story believing they're trying to make a bioweapon.

I think what the most likely possibility is, and again, this is just a hypothesis based on all of the evidence that I certainly and others have collected, over the last year and a half, what I think is most likely is they were collecting these very dangerous viruses, and were poking and prodding and studying them with the very well-intentioned desire to develop vaccines and treatments, because we know there are more and more of these kinds of outbreaks.

So, they were trying to get ahead of the curve. Many scientists around the world supported them in that effort.

And then I believe what most likely happened is there was an accidental leak, followed by a criminal cover-up. So, it could have been very well-intentioned activities, at the Wuhan Institute of virology that could have sparked this pandemic.


CUOMO: But when you say that "It could be, could be, could be," does that mean that you have ruled out that it could have just been one of those animal markets, or whatever, that the other explanation is--


CUOMO: --other than a lab accident?

METZL: So, certainly the animal market, the Wuhan wet market, I think most people have ruled that out. And it was clear last January that that was essentially a lie.

It was published in "The Lancet" in January 2020 that 40 percent of the first cases had no contact with the Wuhan wet market. And so that was certainly for me what piqued my interest because I was asking early last year, "Why would the Chinese government be lying about"--

CUOMO: Well?

METZL: --"about something like this?"

CUOMO: That's an interesting point, though. Let's hold there.

METZL: Yes, sorry, let me - let me just - let me just finish.

CUOMO: All right, go ahead, go ahead, go ahead.

METZL: Yes. OK. Yes, let me just finish that. So, in terms of, could it be an - could it be a, what we call, a zoonotic jump between animal species bats through intermediate hosts in the wild? Absolutely it could be. Past outbreaks have happened in that way. Past outbreaks have happened from lab accidents.

That's why we need a full and unrestricted investigation into all origin hypotheses, with full access to all the relevant records, samples and personnel. And that's exactly what China's denying.

CUOMO: And that's - let's end on that. Why do you think that they won't let you look, if there's such a benign, excuse the pun, explanation?

METZL: Well, it was benign in the beginning. Let's just say that this hypothetical is true. Let's just say that the pandemic started with an accidental lab leak.

Definitely people make mistakes. Countries make mistakes. I was working in the National Security Council, when we accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. And we actually paid reparations, as a result.

But once you start a possibly criminal cover-up, and what they - what happened, whatever the origin of the pandemic, that first month, when China was spending all of its energy, trying to cover things up, rather than fix the problem, that was what allowed the stove fire, to become a kitchen fire, to become a house fire, to become a world fire.

CUOMO: Jamie Metzl, I appreciate it. As you learn more, as you learn that things aren't true, please give a call. You'll always have a platform.

METZL: We'll do. Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Global outrage tonight over what is being called a state-sponsored - state-sponsored hijacking. How did that happen? A jetliner forced out of the sky over Europe, so a government's ruler could seize a journalist. Now we're seeing the man they wanted, for the first time since his arrest. We have a guest, calls it a hostage video. How is this OK, or is it the new normal authoritarianism? Next?









CUOMO: International outrage is growing tonight. And that is a good thing. Why did this plane that landed in Belarus get driven out of the sky the way it was? It was not an ordinary landing.

Ryanair's commercial flight, with over 100 passengers, was flying from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sunday, when this Belarusian fighter jet intercepted it, diverted the aircraft to Belarus, under the pretense of a bomb threat.

Upon landing, it was clear what this was about. The officials promptly arrested this 26-year-old journalist named Roman Protasevich, who told fellow passengers he feared being killed.

This evening, there's new video of him speaking within a detention center, in Minsk. In it, he confesses to organizing riots. His supporters say he is speaking under duress.

Let's bring in Political Scientist, Ian Bremmer.

What do you think of this?

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP & GZERO MEDIA: It's staggering. It's a criminal act. It's an act of state terrorism.

And the United States and the Europeans cannot just condemn this in the strongest terms. They have to take action against the illegitimate government of Belarus, and President Lukashenko, who brought this plane down.

CUOMO: Now, I say there's growing outrage tonight. But we're still really on the low-end.

I mean, when's the last time that we have ever seen anything like this that wasn't just an outright attempt to blow a plane out of the sky, to motivate a negative agenda, to actually come? They have no party to this, right? You got Greece and Lithuania. This is a regional flyer. It's not a

Belarusian name. And they come into other airspace, grab it, and direct - redirect it. When have we ever seen this?

BREMMER: Yes, it's never happened. Irish plane, flying from Greece to Lithuania, with almost 200 mostly European citizens on board, brought down in Minsk, as it's flying through Belarusian space.

You have a fight on board with nationals Intelligence operatives, from apparently Belarus and or Russia, saying that there's a bomb threat from - later, the Belarusian government says Hamas that's it's obviously fake. And they bring the plane down.

And this journalist, who is one of the lead opposition irritants, for the Belarusian government, and his girlfriend, who also is a Russian national, and started this journalist blog, along with him, reporting on a lot of the illegal acts, a lot of the criminal acts, the police brutality, in Belarus, against all the demonstrations that we've seen over the past months. Again, a stolen election you'd had before. We've never seen behavior like this.

And the strong condemnation you're seeing from the Europeans and the Americans definitely reflects that. But as you say, Chris, that has not yet translated into action. And there's good reason to believe that it won't translate into serious action. That is a long-term problem for the international community.


CUOMO: Well you got to ask, why not? What you ignore, you empower.

Ian Bremmer, let's stay on this together.

And the early suggestion that "Well it was in Belarusian airspace, so" no, under international law, that gives that military no right to do anything like this. And that is clear. We'll stay on it.


CUOMO: All right, we're so close on the pandemic. I really do believe it's a time to push. And I do believe it's a time to expose the obvious.

Politics is part of the problem here, OK? That's why we had Governor Chris Christie on tonight. He's putting out the right message. His party isn't.

But there are also other major factors that are contributing to the vaccination effort. Class, class, we have to start thinking about that, and what it means, in this context, about the gap in immunization.

The Wizard of Odds says, "Hey, don't talk about it. Show it." The numbers, next.







CUOMO: There is a desperation to divide, is in our politics but in our culture as well. And if you want to see the net effect, to this point, in this country, take a look at the vaccine, all right?

Here's what we see. All the big through line numbers are heading in the right direction. Cases, down, hospitalizations down, death down. Same for the one that matters most, of course, right? Should have said death first! Probably! My mistake!


Even more, you start to get into the obscure, and you start to see that things are getting back to normal.

How? Hand sanitizer sale, down 80 percent from a year ago. Remember, wipe everything down, in sight, and then they actually just eventually told us now, "That's not really how the virus spreads." But that's down.

When you look deeper, you see once again, that so much of this reality is a function of where you live.

The Wizard of Odds, Harry Enten, is here to show us why it's true, no matter how you want to slice it. That was the mandate to Harry.

Everybody's going to try to shoot this down, Harry, so it's got to be shoot down proof. Let's start with the big one. Money. What do you see when you look at the vaccine gap and class?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Sure. So, look at the top 25 states for vaccinations right now, and look at the poverty status in those states.

Look at this. You see a lot of this yellow orange on your screen. That means below average for poverty status in most of those states. Only, I believe three or two of those states, on the screen, two of them are above average for poverty.

What does that mean? It means the states that are getting vaccinated the most have the fewest number of poor people in them.

And this is something we've seen in the polling as well, right, where wealthier people have gotten much more of the vaccines, that's partially an access proper - access to the vaccine, it's partially because a lot of these poor people have been at work, and they haven't been able necessarily to take off the time.

But this is one of the big problems that we've had in this epidemic so far is it's hit poor people the hardest. And we see that in the vaccination rates as well.

CUOMO: Now, you didn't measure this specifically. But there is also an overlay that is something worth asking about at some point, which is, you look at poor people and people of color, there is good and bad reason for distrust of vaccines.

There's a historical imperative of being abused. There's an idea of what this might be about that could be dark on it. That could be a play, too, in terms of other cultural reckonings and people's susceptibility, yes?

ENTEN: That is true. But what I will point out is if you look at the polling, as I believe we did last week, a lot of the folks, who want the vaccine, but haven't gotten it yet, are from those households that make less than $50,000 per year.

And so, I do believe that at least a large chunk of this is an access problem. And I have to say that I think we're not necessarily focusing on that enough, when we, you know, we put up these lotteries and stuff, and that's great. We should be doing that.

But we should be putting make sure that there are more of these vaccination centers in the places that poor folks go for medical care, because that is one of the largest ways, in which they say they're more likely to get the vaccine.

CUOMO: So then the other big factor was, all right, class, OK, cultural imperatives, access, OK, but what about politics? What do we see there as an overlay of hesitancy?

ENTEN: Boy, this map is just so amazing to me. And what it essentially shows you is in the top 25 states, look at this, the "Joe Biden blue," pretty much all of the states, 21 of the top 25 states for vaccinations, were won by Joe Biden, including the top 25. Just four of them were won by Donald Trump in the last presidential election.

And so this is something that we've seen in the polling throughout where Democrats over and over again said that they were more likely to get the vaccine. And now we actually see it in the real numbers, whereby the states that are Blue, those Democratic states, are far more likely to get vaccination numbers up.

And this is one of my fears going forward where we could almost become a country divided again, whereby the Blue states may end up being able to keep those death rates down on the Coronavirus, but while there's the potential for perhaps an upswing in the Red states.

I hope that doesn't happen. But with the vaccine rates, that you're seeing right now, so strong in the Blue states, you do have to ask, that question.

CUOMO: Strong points. Thank you for putting up the question, and the answers. Harry Enten, the Wizard of Odds.

All right, I have a big BOLO for you ahead. The Party of Trump did not succeed in overturning a free and fair democratic election. But doesn't stop them from trying!

And right now, there are some trying to get new jobs that could potentially give them the power to manipulate an election. And wait until you hear who is funding the effort. BOLO! Next.









CUOMO: Boy oh boy! Have you want a BOLO that just shows you what's going on with the Party of Trump in terms of the severity of the delusion. Be On the Look-Out. Trumpism is alive and well far beyond the halls of Congress.

I want you to look at what's happening in Arizona, OK? This Fraud-it, forget about how kooky it is that they're doing it, and who's doing it. But who's paying for it? The State Senate, yes, a little bit, but they can't afford it.

Enter "Fund The Audit," which says it is powered by "The American project." Who backs "The American Project?" Trump lover, and former Overstock CEO, Patrick Byrne, a.k.a this guy.


PATRICK BYRNE, FORMER OVERSTOCK CEO: I got involved in this election fraud scandal. And it was fraud. It was a fraudulent election. And it didn't end for us on January 20th.


CUOMO: Lest you think his backward views or a one-off, I want to re- introduce you to who he was. The name may sound familiar, not just from Overstock fame, or infamy.

But you saw him on this show two years ago. At that time, he was claiming that he was ordered by the FBI to have a relationship, romantic relationship with a Russian spy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BYRNE: I did. I, in 2015, '16, I took some requests from the - from the FBI. And it is the only time I want to say that. It's men in black, because they're not the bad guys here.


CUOMO: This is the guy who was raising the money for the organization who may have a hand in figuring out who gets to do the counting in the next audit. So, follow the money, because that's part of following the politics.


The races that aren't on the top of the ticket, especially on the state level, some of the former president's biggest supporters, who helped push the big lie, about the election being rigged, they are running for offices that don't get nearly as much attention.

They're running to become Secretary of State in key battlegrounds, like Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan. Why? Why do those matter? Two reasons.

All of these states were points of contention during the last presidential election. So, if they lose, we already know the strategy. Blame fraud, because you don't need proof, if people just want to believe things, because it makes them feel better.

Second, Trumpers holding this top election position could help decide who controls Congress during the next election, and perhaps more importantly, who sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in 2024.

So how are these big lie advocates likely to fare in states where their party has already taken moves to suppress the vote, and to question the outcome of the 2020 race? BOLO! We will.

And we'll be right back.








CUOMO: Thank you for your time and attention. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now with the big star, D. lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: How are you doing? Did you have a good weekend?

CUOMO: Better than I deserve.

LEMON: I need a haircut. It's long, man.